Maybe these ideas will work for you too
I grew up hard. My mom was bipolar, my sister mentally ill, my brother a hemophiliac, and my dad was a walking cardio condition who finally died from his third heart attack.
My extended family was no better. Cancer, diabetes, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, gallbladder removals, almost any awful thing you could think of.
For a long time, I was sure I had been adopted because I didn’t have any of those conditions. When I would go to the doctor and fill out the history card with all the checkboxes about what health problems you and your immediate family had, the nurse would ask me if I was kidding.
“Hmpf, I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
“No, I’m not kidding,” I would reply. And then she would shoot me the look I learned to interpret as, “Hmpf, I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
Growing up this way took its toll on my life in many ways, and I learned from a very early age to see life as a constant string of tragedies.
Not exactly a rallying cry for awesomeness.
I lived a good portion of my life waiting for the next bad thing to happen. There were some highlights, but primarily my life was harsh, tragic, and sad.
It got to the point where I saw little sense in carrying on; I did not want to live a life of trouble and strife only to die sick and broken after years of awfulness.
I had two choices. Quit life altogether or change.
I chose to change.
The trouble was I had little idea how actually to do this.
I started with the most familiar path— organized religion. That did not work for me. Neither did intense exercise or the study of occult books about the Masons, Rosicrucians or Wicca.
Here’s what did work
What I did to change my life was simple, and in all honesty, basic.
I started saying “thank you” for all the things in my life.
I know people get all on about practicing gratitude but creating a practice of gratitude was way too complicated an idea for me.
I just said, “thank you.”
When I first started doing this, I said thank you for everything. What I mean is I went to the refrigerator and touched each item in there and said thank you.
- “Thank you for this milk.”
- “Thank you for these eggs.”
- “Thank you for this spaghetti sauce.”
- “Thank you for this celery.”
Then I moved on to other rooms of the house. I touched everything and said, “thank you.”
It took a shorter amount of time than I thought it would. Afterward, I found myself saying “thank you” more often, in more situations than you would think possible.
It changed my life. I am honestly thankful now every day for everything, and I say so. And nobody mocks me.
I started playing with my pets
When Susan and I were first married, we had three cats and a giant collie dog. We were not youngsters when we got together, and each of us had miles of stuff we needed to work out.
For me, one of those things to work out was the animals. Collie dogs are a lot of work. They have long fluffy fur that covers every surface of your home, and bladders the size of a peanut.
Three cats meant there were constant cat irritations — not exactly fights but interactions where you had to watch to make sure they weren’t going to kill each other.
I viewed these creatures as interruptions to my life and treated them that way. They were items my To-Do list that I needed to check off so that I could move onto the next task.
But a funny thing happened, once I had finished my thank you’s. I realized that if I was genuinely thankful for everything in my life, I needed to treat these friendly little creatures with the respect every living thing deserves.
So I started playing with them. With Clancy, the collie dog, I played “chase the spray from the hose in the backyard” and “hide and seek”. But the game he loved most was when I pretended to walk downstairs behind the kitchen counter like the mimes do.
He would bark, bark, bark when I disappeared. Then he would run over to find me and get a treat. That was a good game.
With the cats, and especially with Rico, we played “red ball”. Rico hid under the rocking chair, and I threw a ball against the wall, and he sprang out to attack it.
We played “launch mouse”, where you take a toy mouse and flick it with your finger from the arm of the couch. Rico jumps up to catch it in his little cat arms
Rico’s current favorite is Fastest Cat. We start in the living room, and I scuff my feet on the floor. This is the signal for the start of the “Fastest Cat” race. Then he sprints by me down the hall to the bedroom and sits staring at the dresser where the treats are kept. He is always the winner in this race and gets a treat to go along with his title of Fastest Cat.
Change takes time
I can’t say that everything in my life changed overnight because it did not. It took doing these simple things consistently that made a difference.
Starting with these two simple ideas changed my thinking enough, that I was willing to try other new ideas as well. That’s the part that was quite amazing.
In the old days, when I saw everything as miserable, I found more misery piling up in my day. But when I was willing to make small changes, like saying “thank you” and playing with my pets, my heart became warmer and more good things came my way.
Do I still have some things to deal with? Absolutely yes. Who doesn’t? The difference is that now, I’m willing to deal with them.
And that simple change in my thinking made all the difference.
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